Fighting through |

Fighting through

Horizons' 'Little points of light' campaign helps local families in need

John Vandelinder
The Duke family, clockwise from bottom left, Kennedy, Lucy, Todd and Logan, is all smiles thanks to the help provided by Horizons Specialized Services. Kennedy is one of 72 children Horizons helped this year.
Hans Hallgren

To help

Horizons' Little Points of Light fundraiser

If you want to donate, make checks payable to

Horizons Specialized Services,

P.O. Box 1483,

Craig, CO


— The date: April 16, 2005.

Lucy Duke was laboring through the birthing process as her husband Todd paced back and forth in anticipation of the arrival of the couple’s second child.

The clock struck 3 p.m., and the fruits of the Dukes’ love had arrived.

A bouncing baby boy, Kennedy, was delivered.

Weighing in at 6 pounds 13 ounces, Kennedy seemed to be everything the Dukes envisioned.

But, as the doctors looked closer, all was not as it seemed.

Kennedy was born with a cleft lip and palate. In laymen’s terms, he was missing the upper roof of his mouth and he had a 1-inch space of missing tissue between his upper lip and nose.

If that weren’t enough of a shock, what came next was.

A pediatric nurse in the Salt Lake City hospital where Kennedy was born crossed the line.

“She asked us if we were going to keep it,” Lucy said. “We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. ‘Keep it’?”

The Dukes were irate.

“She said there were so many different expenses we would incur because of his situation,” Todd said. “We were told he would need doctors, orthodontists and time spent at facial clinics for the rest of his life.”

About nine months after Kennedy’s birth – and two surgeries later – Todd knew he needed money. His insurance wouldn’t cover any of the medical expenses. He opened a trucking company in Craig, and moved the family east from Utah.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Lucy said. “It was really hard to deal with. I thought we were going to have to pay for a doctor for him in Steamboat Springs.”

Horizons stepped in to help out.

According to its press release, Horizons Specialized Services is the primary provider of therapies and services to children and adults who have a developmental delay or disability in Northwest Colorado.

Last year alone, Horizons provided aid to 72 children, but only received funding from the state for 26 children.

“Donations from the community have been the backbone of our operation,” Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said. “Without the help from the public, we wouldn’t be able to reach the people we do.”

The Little Points of Light campaign is the annual fundraising event hosted by Horizons, an event Mizen calls “a necessity.”

Interested residents can make donations at any time of the year. Mizen said the holiday season is when they focus most on the programs geared toward children.

“Donations make the difference,” she said. “It is our pledge to find a way to cover costs of therapists, to help those children that need it most.”

The Dukes take Kennedy to facial clinics and an orthodontist, and a crew of doctors will meet once a year to make sure he stays on course to a complete recovery.

All fees have been picked up with the help of Horizons.

Horizons also plays a major role in contacting other services, which can help families in their time of need.

“It is important for people to know there is a number of different agencies involved in this,” Mizen said. “We arrange for the families to be visited by counselors and on-call nurses. Anything these families need, we do our best to take care of.”

Kennedy’s lip is closed, and a fitted plate provides a roof to his mouth.

His motor skills and vocabulary are on par with other children his age.

Surgeries have repaired the tissue above his lip, which curls up with a wide grin as a giggle erupts from beneath.

“Without Horizons’ help, I don’t know what we would have done,” Lucy said. “It would have been a financial burden for us. The community here is great, with all the help they give to others.”

The Dukes are now looking toward the future. With a little help from Horizons, Kennedy will be able to live his life like other children his age.

“In the beginning, we would worry about him growing up and being teased,” Todd said. “Not anymore. Horizons played a huge role in helping Kennedy and us. We can’t say enough how grateful we are to them and the community for stepping up.”